The wind rustled through the trees, causing the shadows to shiver across the forest floor. Silver light gleamed through the canopy as Morgan Flay used her camera lens to scope out the pier at Central Point. It was dangerous to stay out this late in the Gehenna Preserve, but she hadn’t gotten her fix yet.
Business was slow after she had photographed the latest victims of Gehenna’s hellish residents. Mayor Dickson’s niece and nephews had been mutilated and slaughtered by Nakey, summoned by the Mayor’s own secretary, Margie Knox. It had been a gruesome scene, Whitney Dixon’s limbs torn off, her intestines pulled through her belly and strewn about the trees like bloody garland. Wade and Levi Dickson were hardly recognizable save for their family brand tattooed on their remaining skin. Margie Knox was only identifiable by her name tag that had been shoved into an empty socket of her severed head, the rest of her corpse having been ritually devoured by Nakey. She hoped this last batch of evidence was enough to nail the Mayor for his illegal activities involving the creatures of Gehenna.
Nakey was one of the main residents of the Gehenna Preserve. No one quite knew how the Gehenna Preserve nor its residents came to be, but it had been around since colonial times. In fact, the Gehenna attracted all sorts of unusual crowds: lost hikers, cultists wannabes, real cultists, suicidal souls looking for peace. The majority ended up dead and eaten, or just displayed as art in the forest, but there were a few like Morgan who were capable of handling the terrain.
Morgan made her living photographing and identifying the remains of those who fell to the Gehenna. It was a lot better than being underpaid and bitched at by Bridezillas. A bit gruesome at times, and perhaps she had become desensitized to death and gore, but it paid well and she enjoyed the company.
In fact, she had come to prefer the company of Gehenna’s residents to normal people. Nakey for example, had even become her roommate- or more like a stray cat that she nor her roommate Jasmine wanted to get rid of. The first night Nakey followed her home had been a weird night and then she had to explain to her landlord- and friend- that Nakey was friendly.
All the residents of Gehenna lived by unspoken rules that Morgan had taken time to learn and understand, allowing her to traverse the preserve with minimal terror and a lower chance of being eaten. Nakey, her beloved hairless abomination, only killed those he was bid to by his summoners, granting Morgan the ability to photograph and interact with the creature not only during kills, but after. It was the basis for their strange relationship.
“Where are you...” Morgan mumbled to herself, chewing on her lip a moment as she lowered her camera. She was at the edge of the Central Point perimeter, so where the hell was he?
“Waiting on your lover?”
“Jesus Christ!” Morgan shrieked, whipping around and dropping her camera so the heavy equipment thwacked against her chest. “You’re an ass!”
Her heart pounded in her chest as she stared at Dom. The leather clad bastard had a smug smile on his waxy face, before effortlessly gliding out in front of her.
None of Gehenna’s residents were human, yet somehow Dom looked the most human and inhuman at the same time. He was unnaturally tall and slender with pale, blue tinged skin, reminding her of the corpses she photographed. How the bastard moved so fluidly, especially in all that leather, really pissed her off. Morgan knew for a fact that his many victims supplied his wardrobe. Where Nakey had to be summoned and commanded, Dom found victims through means of an enchanted- or rather cursed- ring that bound their souls together. No one happy sought out Dom’s unique pleasures, instead it was those desperate souls longing for one final spark of pleasure before their lives ended, and Dom was always happy to oblige.
“Why would you do that?!”
“I merely asked you a question,” Dom replied, his voice resonating with a power that both intrigued, and terrified her.
“Hmph,” Morgan crossed her arms over her chest, trying to hide the fact her chest hurt from both the camera and her thudding heart. “What are you doing out here?”
“Looking for you,” as he spoke, Dom extended his hand, offering the camera she’d left at the abandoned mansion he claimed as his domain. “I made a point to get close ups of all the good details.”
“Oh.” Morgan blinked, not entirely sure how to respond, “Anyone I know?”
“William Perry.” Dom folded his hands neatly behind his back as he spoke, “Life had lost all meaning, but I rekindled that spark for a mere moment… a pity.”
“Hmm well, people have strange interests.” Morgan told him, before giving Dom a once over. Nakey was a strange creature, but he looked like a beast. Dom reminded her of a sculpture, like an artist’s rendering of what an alien humanoid would look like, not quite masculine or feminine. His black, soulless eyes did little to soften his corpse-like appearance.
“Indeed.” Dom agreed, “Some might even consider yours to be verging on… necrophilic.”
Morgan gasped, before her annoyed expression warped into a frown. “He’s not my lover. He’s not my anything.”
“Yet, here you are, forlorn and alone, waiting for a rotting husk to strut by.”
“Words cannot describe how much I do dislike you.”
Dom smirked then, “Nor can they describe the pleasure I would bring you, if you would just wear my ring.”
Seeing white, Morgan looked over to see Dom again extending his hand, this time offering the cursed ring that bound the wearer to Dom’s every whim.
“You have to at least buy me dinner first.” Morgan commented, making Dom’s smooth demeanor crack for just a moment. “Then like, get down on one knee before you offer a ring. Like I want the full experience, not just-
This time it was Dom’s turn to roll his eyes, “You are insufferable at times.”
She couldn’t help but laugh, “Yes, so I’ve heard. Need me to find a wearer for that?”
The moonlight shifted over Dom’s eyes as his gaze darted from the ring to her face, “You would?”
“Mm-hmm, bound to be some lost, desperate soul at the Sheriff’s office. The more evidence I have, the more money I make.”
“You are a sad, twisted person. We would get along so well, but you’re too blinded by your lust for your decayed idol.”
“I am not!” Morgan protested as her confidence deflated, before snatching the ring out of his hand. She shivered as she felt his skin brush against hers. It was cold and lifeless. There were so many questions, and so few answers, when it came to the origins of Gehenna’s residents, but a part of her felt the less she knew about Dom, the better.
“Keep lying to yourself. If you skip husk-watching this night, you will be able to bypass Wendy before her nightly prowl.”
Looking up, Morgan sighed as she realized Dom had a point. It was getting late and she didn’t need to get eaten by a Wendigo. If she died, there’d be no one to photograph her and explain her disappearance to Jasmine, her cats or Nakey. Maybe, she thought as she glanced back towards Dom.
“What’s his real name?” Morgan asked as she looked back to the pier, hoping to spot a glimpse of Wraith. The pier remained empty, no sign of the wandering guardian.
“I’d suggest you ask him, but his vocal cords have rotted away. It would be hard for you to understand.” Dom shrugged, then looked back to her, “Now, shoo. I am fond of you at times and would prefer your death to come at my hands, not Wendy’s fangs.”
“I think I’d rather Wraith kill me.”
“You should find out one day. Cross over.” Dom motioned to the imaginary boundary that Wraith wouldn’t cross around the perimeter of Central Point, “Will true love protect you, or will you end up sacrificed to the lake like all the others?”
“Oooh,” Morgan glared at him, before turning and walking off. If she knew he’d feel pain, she’d probably slap him. Then again, he’d probably enjoy it and truthfully, she didn’t want to touch him.
She’d only gone about 50 yards or so, before she finally looked back. She’d really wanted to get another moonlit shot of Wraith. The wind blew, carrying a thundering howl with it. Wendy was on the hunt. Time to go.
“Another time then,” she whispered to herself, a little disappointed in the lack of her favorite Gehenna resident.
An hour or so later, she was back at Jasmine’s two story family home. The house was probably as old as the Gehenna itself, and about as hospitable, but rent was cheap and Jasmine didn’t mind her cats, nor Nakey.
Opening the front door, Morgan called out to her friend, “Honey, I’m home!”
Morgan froze, not expecting such a violent and loud shushing from the living room.
“Wha- wooow.” Morgan crossed her arms over her chest at the scene. Jasmine was sitting comfy on the couch, while Nakey’s hairless self was stretched out across the couch, his long head rested on the arm of the couch in Morgan’s spot.
“Be quiet, he’s sleeping.”
“How is it he’s my monster, yet somehow, you are sitting here watching rom-coms with Nakey?”
“1) he’s not a monster and 2) we need a new name for him. He’s not naked anymore, he has a kilt on.”
“He only wears the kilt here, after you give you him a luxurious bath. Seriously, he’s like a…” Morgan trailed off as she saw Nakey’s yellow eyes open a moment, before he drifted back to sleep. “Like a show dog.”
“More like a cat,” Jasmine commented, her smile broad as she reached over to fondly pat Nakey’s bony hip.
Nakey was an unusual creature. Wendy seemed to be a stereotypical Wendigo, nightmarish and terrifying. Nakey was even weirder than that. He was this strange cross between a Sphynx cat and a hunchbacked werewolf. The beast stood at his full height at about 15ft tall, but she rarely saw him in his full glory. Nakey typically remained in a more idle and hunched stance at about 9ft with his hindlegs curled underneath him and his hands on the ground. His entire body was hairless, covered in a thick skin with a muddy orange color like it was permanently stained by clay and old blood. Nakey’s forelimbs were exceptionally long, tipped with bony fingers and sharp claws while his hind legs were multi-jointed, folding underneath him and allowing him to assume a bipedal or more bestial stance. His tail was nearly as long as his body, ending in the only small tuft of hair noticeable with a faint claw at the tip. Two bony and pathetic wings rested on his shoulders, resting over his back like fragile, leathery drapes.
Typically, Nakey was well, naked; completely bare with every limb or section of his long, gangly and bony body visible. It was a bit scarring for both Morgan and Jasmine at first, but once they adjusted, Jasmine started ordering custom kilts online. Somehow, one of the world’s most dangerous beings was bathed, oiled and dressed like a show winning Sphinx.
Shaking her head, Morgan walked over and gently stroked the beast’s forehead. A low mewl came from Nakey, the beast pushing his head subconsciously into her hand.
“He’s kind of adorable when he’s sleeping.” Morgan smiled a moment, “Any word?”
“Nope, but I’m sure we’ll hear something tomorrow from the Sheriff. Your wall of horror seems to point to a common source.”
Morgan nodded, “I agree. The Mayor is guilty. It makes no sense that Margie Knox would summon Nakey to kill off the Mayor’s niece and nephews.”
“Inheritance most likely. His father is dying, probably wants it all to go to his son.” Jasmine commented.
“Hmm…” Morgan crossed her arms, “That seems reasonable. How is he getting other people to summon him though?” she asked as she motioned to Nakey, the beast sleeping peacefully on the couch.
“I bet her kids are set for life financially.” Jasmine mused, making Morgan’s eyes widen.
“Shit, you’re probably right.” If that was the case, then Mayor Dick might not ever actually get his hands dirty. He’d pay off people’s debts in exchange for them making the sacrifices. “I might go back to the Sheriff’s tomorrow.”
“Good luck with that. You know they hate being bothered,” Jasmine’s comment made Morgan huff. She had a point.
“Ughh. I hate waiting.”
“Yet somehow, you manage to wait every night for your undead boyfriend.”
“Dear God, between you and Dom,” Morgan shook her head, making Jasmine laugh.
“And Nakey. Remember, we have weekly wine nights where we judge you.”
“Yes, I am well aware,” she turned away from her friend then, heading for the stairs, “I’m going upstairs.”
“Good night. Leave the door open you know he likes to switch rooms.”
Morgan could not help but laugh. Nakey might as well be their pet.
Entering her upstairs bedroom, Morgan set her camera down, deciding she’d download the footage tomorrow. For now, sleep. Her cats were ahead of her, the two beasts curled up in her pile of laundry on the floor.
It didn’t take long to complete her nightly routine. She traded her jeans and shirt for a matching set of leopard print pajamas. Grabbing her long, windswept curls, she wound them up into a scrunchie before finally flipping the switch and climbing in.
The night might have ended in disappointment from the lack of Wraith, but there was always tomorrow. She couldn’t believe they were all convinced she had a thing for Wraith. Of course she didn’t! If she crossed over that invisible barrier that bound Wraith to Central Point, he’d slaughter her just like all the rest. Hell, the first few times she’d photographed the revenant, he’d tried to kill her long distance. Much like Nakey, the more she came around, the friendlier he became. Wraith wasn’t exactly cuddly, but his attempts on her life became more half hearted.
There was nothing to like about a walking corpse, except he looked really great under the full moon. The way the moonlight illuminated his broad shouldered, once muscular physique and gave the broken sword he carried an unnatural glow. It was honestly quite magical. From far away, he looked like a renegade knight from a medieval fantasy and-
Holy shit. Did she have a thing for Wraith?
Shaking her head, and letting out a low groan at the thought that Dom might be right, Morgan pulled the cover over her head. She needed sleep.
The bed suddenly sinking from another weight made her freeze, before she lifted up the cover to take a peek.
Immediately, she regretted it as Nakey’s muzzle pushed its way under the blanket, the creature sniffing at her face.
“Nakey!” Morgan complained, playfully pushing the beast’s head back. “Settle down, damn it.”
Nakey mewled in response, before curling up beside her. The sound was strangely adorable coming from such a monstrous creature.
With all his weight weighing the bed down, Morgan accepted her fate and attempted to get settled. She had to wonder how the creature was able to curl up his unnaturally long limbs under himself like a cat. Then again, it was probably quite natural for Nakey.
“You’re a pain.” Morgan whispered to the beast fondly, getting a content mrr in response before Nakey extended one of his bony wings, resting it gently over her like a blanket. Patting the membranous appendage softly, Morgan closed her eyes, glad for the creature’s company. It really was like owning a cat; a really big, hairless cat.
Sleep was peaceful and dark, much like Gehenna at night. Everything was calm, gilded in moonlight until Wendy’s fucking horrendous howl echoed through the night.
Morgan jerked awake, the sound all too real and high pitched, like a shriek. The hell was-
“Nakey!” Morgan exclaimed, ducking down just in time to avoid the creature’s claws as Nakey screamed and writhed, the beast thrashing until he fell off the bed. The shrieks of pain cut into Morgan’s head, especially as Nakey’s flesh seemed to glow as if catching fire. “Nakey!” she called out again, reaching for her friend.
The creature’s yellow eyes were glowing bright, meeting her gaze as he extended a clawed hand towards her, before the beast disappeared in a flash of flame.
Morgan could only stare at the glowing spot where Nakey had been standing. The hell just happened-
“Morgan, the hell was that!?” Jasmine demanded as she came running into her room, flipping the light on.
The unexpected light made Morgan wince, but she could only shake her head.
“Nakey. I think someone summoned him.”
“Summoned?! Now? At this hour?!” Jasmine’s tone voiced both her concern, and her annoyance.
“Black magic practitioners don’t follow normal business hours,” Morgan pointed out as she stood up.
“Clearly. What are you doing?” Jasmine’s voice flipped gears, realizing Morgan was up to something as she grabbed her jeans off the floor.
“If Nakey was summoned, that means whoever it is, has to be out on Gehenna now.”
“And? What does that have to do with you?”
“I’ll find them. Snap a few photos and ta-da! More undeniable evidence.”
“If it’s even related. It’s really late, Morgan. This seems dangerous. Doesn’t that Wendigo patrol this time-
“It’ll be fine!” Morgan assured her, throwing her clothes on as fast as she could. Feeling a weight in her pocket, she slid her hand inside and hesitated, feeling Dom’s ring. She needed to get rid of that soon. “Don’t wait up!” Morgan told Jasmine as she snatched her camera and headed out the door.
Jasmine’s protests echoed in her skull long after Morgan left the house and headed back towards Gehenna. Her plan seemed golden, until she arrived at the forest and realized: she had absolutely no idea where or how to summon Nakey. Did location matter? Would he even be summoned on the Preserve?
Chewing her lip, Morgan debated her options. Go back home, no new information, or hang around and hope she found Nakey.
She would try Nakey’s usual hang outs. Surely the key to summoning him was around there, why else would he stay in such a specific area? Maybe he just liked the scenery?
After an hour of wandering the woods, Morgan was no closer to finding Nakey or any evidence. Which really sucked. Today was an absolute waste all around. No Wraith, no Nakey, no summoner.
“Bullshit,” Morgan muttered, looking around again. “Total waste…”
She turned to leave, before pausing as she found herself looking in the direction of Central Point. Maaaybe not.
“Bastard’s doing it on purpose.” Morgan was sure of it as she found her usual perch, and saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. There wasn’t even a shadow of Wraith visible on the pier, across the lake, in the lake, nowhere!
If she was sure Wendy wasn’t around, she’d probably yell at him err for him.
Rustling behind her made Morgan turn to look.
“Nakey!” she exclaimed, spotting her favorite beastie as he came walking towards her on all fours. His long forelimbs gave him an unusual loping gait. As usual when he was summoned, Nakey’s eyes were glowing a bright, almost neon yellow.
The beast offered a low mewl in response, coming to a stop, but not fully approaching her.
“Are you alright?” Morgan asked, thinking it odd he stayed back. She hoped Wendy wasn’t behind her. “Did they hurt you, Nakey?”
Nakey’s yellow gaze met hers, and the glow seemed to intensify, creating a burning orange iris around his dilated pupils. The beast offered a low whine, before finally giving a slow nod of his head.
“Aww, I’m sorry, sweetie,” Morgan took a step forward and Nakey hissed, making her freeze. The sound was unsettling, deep and full of warning. The hell was he doing? “Nakey, what’s wrong, what- oh shit.”
She blinked, the pieces falling into place.
“They summoned you… for me.”
The same, sad mewl from before made her heart break. Nakey’s eyes met hers once more, the glow softening with his miserable gaze.
“It’s okay. It’ll be alright,” Morgan told the creature sincerely. Never would she have thought it would come to this, but deep down, she wasn’t surprised. She kept piling up evidence, someone was going to get upset eventually. She hated that Nakey had to be the one. They were so close. It was cruel. Why not Wendy or- Morgan hesitated, an idea coming to mind. “Here… you like games… 15 second head start, huh?” Morgan offered, making Nakey mrr as he tilted his head.
The creature seemed to think over her suggestion, before giving an affirmative nod. Turning away, Nakey reached up to play with a branch on the tree.
Morgan watched a moment, before shaking her head. She needed to move!
She took off, running through the woods. In all her experience with Nakey, she’d never heard of anyone escaping, or defeating the creature, but perhaps she could outwit him.
Running options through her head alongside a mental timer, Morgan had only moments to decide her next move.
“Oi! Asshole!” Morgan shouted, hoping one of Gehenna’s other residents would hear her. Trees rushed past and soon she was out in the open, Central Point’s smooth surface glimmering from the moonlight overhead. Small ripples stretched across the water where the pier interrupted its otherwise glasslike surface.
Focusing on the pier, Morgan ran like hell.
She knew Nakey was fond of her, but she wasn’t sure if that would spare her the slow, painful deaths he was known for.
Wood rattled beneath Morgan’s feet as she ran across the pier. Central Point stretched out before her, but she came to a stop at the edge. Okay, she was here. What now?!
A loud screech made her look back to the land, where she could Nakey stalking towards her, his glowing eyes like an ominous portent of death.
Frantically searching, Morgan didn’t see a way out. Shaking her head, she threw her hands up, really unsure how to end this. Her hands slapped against her jeans and she felt the hard metal of Dom’s ring. It was half tempting to slip that cursed thing on. Would one curse overrule the other?
Her hand slipped into her pocket, fiddling with the jewelry. The piece flipped, she could feel the interior around the tip of her finger as Nakey reached the other end of the pier. Letting out a low growl, Nakey took a step forward, scraping his claws across the wood and leaving deep indentions in the ancient structure.
Now or never, Morgan thought with a nod, slipping her index finger into the ring until she heard a sudden splash.
Her gaze met Nakey’s, the creature’s pupils dilating to their full extent before the creature snarled, rushing forward. Nakey’s charge was cut short, the beast sliding to a stop in front of her.
A slow, pained mrrow escaped the creature, Nakey extending his foreleg towards her.
“Na.. N…” Morgan struggled to speak, reaching for her friend, only to choke. Blood welled up in her mouth and she looked down, staring at the broken blade impaled through her chest. “Oooh.”
She blinked a moment, surprised she didn’t notice that. As effortlessly as the blade impaled her, the weapon was pulled back, causing her to stumble and collapse.
Staring into the sky, everything was peaceful, gilded in silver. The moon shined over head, but was soon replaced by a familiar, broad shouldered silhouette.
As the world went black, Morgan couldn’t help but smile. She’d never been this close before. Perhaps tonight wasn’t so wasted after all.
About the author
Writing, gaming and creating art are my passions. Along with cats. All hail the mighty felilne overlords! Fantasy- traditional and urban- are my forte, but I dabble with romance, sci-fi and occasionally horror. Let me know what you think!